George Elliott Clarke

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 Othello Eyes Desdemona

A soft, luminous body shouldn’t spigot
But I look at her like Hannibal—
that bull-headed Negro—
looked upon Rome.

Hefting a tomahawk,
I descend from Plato’s Cave
to cancel Pandora’s Box.

She drowses.
Her breasts are sculptures
rendering other women’s teats mere paintings.

To kill her like this—
this divine, inhuman Sunlight….
O!  I see Venice engulfed in flames.

While I lurk in this outlying darkness,
I ogle the blunt phosphorescence
of her half-cast-up thighs,
more white than her half-cast-off sheets.

Her breathing sounds a music like snow,
and I feel a stupor of Poetry.

But I’ve trumpeted her a “strumpet!”
The whore’s my household Salomé,
her fat, pallid, erect tits,
buoying up sundry troops,
in a brash brothel,
where sports swore they’d spy my head—
like Baptist Jack’s—
bearded and bloody on a platter.

I should accept Desi’s infinite weeping,
prefer her Contrition,
rather than the obstinate sparkling
of exploded blood—
my nakedly white lady,
pierced, speared, like Christ.

But Adultery ain’t abstract.
She stripped off her wedding gown to start on Crime,
and served my lily-white lieutenants
a whinnying frenzy
that made my bedroom echo horses, bucking.

If I don’t act to hallow Justice,
don’t prove assassin to an adulteress,
Venice dons a foliage of flames
and Cyprus turns a burned-out beach.

Yet, like Hamlet, I hesitate to stab.
I still see an Oaxaca belle
silvery incandescence—
breasts like transparent cream;

and I remember us,
entangled and grunting,
our palace shrieking with bare-faced love—
just one night—
the wedding eve—
and she loved me so much that she came and stood
at dawn under threat of the Turkish guns—
to watch me serve the Ottoman a gulf of wounds,
a whirlwind of barbs,
ensepulchred smoke,
so that the Muslims drowned or burned
in abyss of battle,
the muddy vertigo of the swamp,
the harrowing flame of firearms,
because our Venetian cannon howled lightning.

Our lovemaking that day was my Triumph.
See her here in the cold, crisp cloth—
her skeleton’s snowstorm of flesh:
She will beautify the grave’s spurious bed.

I have a blade here—
deadly as Macbeth’s daggers:
Her impalpable breath
will soon wheeze in her lungs.
(It is my warrior’s profession
to pierce and wound.)

She doth seem harshly guileless:
Like clean, unspoiled milk.
Her lips look unkissed, unsipped.

And yet she is more bitch than bride,
more bawd than bitch,
sloshing and floundering
on a slouching couch,
and crying out, “Cassio, Cassio,”
at his chafing crescendo,
for I suspect that,
after he scooped up her light skirts,
he bred steamily twixt her thighs.
(I’ve seen him in the whorehouse after a victory:
We’ve screwed the self-same sluts, time and again.)

I could run Desi through now;
fix her with steel drilled deep in her sex,
save that Pain might bring her orgasm….

I thank Iago’s cordial voyeurism
for showing me Desi’s open mouth, open legs, open eyes.
I must kiss once more her jellyfish-soft lips.

Her execution mustn’t be too callous.
She won’t die, leaking red slop.

No, as she awakes, she’ll perish—
faceless under a pillow—
sobbing into that plush barricade.

See!  I’ll have no pale Latin crying, “cuckold,”
at my Moorish face and ears.
No fool gets to shit on me!

I press the pillow on her face:
A Romantic decapitation.


[Malaga (Spain) 10 octobre mmxii]

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1 Comment

johanna January 23, 2017 at 6:25 pm

Impressive, and hard to read imagining that history.


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